Government asks voluntary sector to develop plans to mutualise the Post Office

The company is ideally suited to a cooperative structure, business secretary Vince Cable tells Parliament

Post Office
Post Office

Voluntary sector organisations have been asked by the government to develop proposals to mutualise part of Post Office Ltd, the organisation that owns 373 Crown Post Offices.

The Postal Services Bill, which had its first reading in Parliament on Wednesday, would give ownership of the government-owned organisation to a mutual body, which would have subpostmasters, mistresses and staff as its members.

About 1,000 post offices are already owned by mutual organisations and local communities, rather than the government.

"I'm concerned that the current structure of the company is holding the network back," said Vince Cable, the business secretary. "The interests of the central holding company and locally owned branches are not always aligned.

"I want to start a conversation about how it is run in the future, but it seems to me that the Post Office is ideally suited to a John Lewis Partnership or Co-operative Group-style structure, where employees, subpostmasters, mistresses and communities get a greater say in how the company is run."

The cooperatives umbrella body Co-operatives UK has been asked to explore options for creating a mutualised Post Office and report back to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in the spring.

Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, said: "This bill is a chance to build a sustainable business, using the time-honoured technique of cooperative and mutual membership.

"It takes time to build a membership base and a culture of mutuality, and it will take time to move Post Office Limited on to a fully commercial, independent footing."

The government said it would make sure any mutual started life with sufficient financial resources. It is targeting mutual ownership of Post Office Ltd by the end of the current Parliament.

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